Surfing isn’t everything but it’s definitely something. Photo: Jody Marcon

My life revolves around surfing. I plan my days around the tides. Swells dictate my vacations. I only live in homes near the beach. My savings are dedicated to new boards and surf travel. I even work as a surf writer.

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But despite all that, I can safely say that surfing isn’t everything. Call me crazy, but it’s something that took me years to figure out and is a lesson I’m grateful to have learned.

As a kid, I wanted nothing more than to be a surfer. I’d pour through surf magazines, watch surf films, wear surf clothes, and throw myself in the ocean every chance I got. But growing up in an inland community with parents who took no interest in the sport, it wasn’t until I got my driver’s license that I truly got the chance to fulfill my dream of becoming a surfer.

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After getting my first board, I discovered that surfing is addictive. What started as a once or twice a month thing, quickly became a weekly obsession. These days, I surf almost daily. And the more I surf, the more I want to.

A year after graduating college, I ditched my marine biology degree and teaching job, swapping them for an unpaid internship at a surf magazine, paving the way for a career centered around surfing. I spent less and less time with my non-surfing friends and would only date surfers, surfing and saltwater became the center of my life. My identity was in surfing, and I was proud that I had turned my passion into a lifestyle and a career.

But in, 2015, everything changed. I became suddenly and mysteriously ill and was diagnosed with a chronic illness. I spent the next five years bedridden, surfing quickly becoming a thing of my past. I was told there was no cure for my illness and it would make surfing extremely challenging if even possible.

Navigating the illness and doctor’s appointments was challenging enough, but I was also facing an identity crisis. If I couldn’t surf anymore, then where did that leave me? If I wasn’t a surfer, then who was I?

I continued to write about surfing and would occasionally see my old surf buddies, making it to the beach on the rare, good days. I won’t bore you with the details, but it was a long five years in which I felt helpless and grieved the loss of my ability to surf. In 2020, I was seriously beginning to lose hope when I started a new treatment. Luckily, it worked.

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As I regained my health and my strength, I began surfing more and more. I was thrilled to be back in the water and my stoke level was at an all-time high, but my perspective had shifted. While surfing was still a huge and important part of my life, it wasn’t what I once thought it was. Surfing wasn’t, in fact, everything.

When you find yourself at death’s door, you’re given the opportunity to take a step back and examine what’s truly important to you. While surfing was something I loved, it didn’t, and doesn’t, define me. Because I’m more than just a surfer: I’m a daughter, a sister, a friend, a runner, an environmentalist, a writer, a surfer, and so much more.

One part doesn’t make a whole and although I will forever love surfing and continue to chase waves, my life is so much more than just surfing. While most people won’t figure it out until they’re old and gray, I learned in my 20s that although surfing is a lot, it isn’t everything. And someday, if illness or injury strikes or my body fails me, I’ll remember that lesson and be grateful for all the years I spent in the water. But until that happens, you’ll find me in the sea, catching as many waves as humanly possible.

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